What are the Steps of a Contested Texas Divorce, and How can I Prepare for Them?

Picture this: you’ve just made the heart-wrenching decision to end your marriage, and now you’re faced with the daunting task of navigating the choppy waters of a , contested divorce in Texas. You’re not alone, and we’re here to help. You’ll be better equipped to sail through this stormy process with the correct information, guidance, and a pinch of humor.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the nuts and bolts of , contested divorces in the Lone Star State and give you valuable insights to help you stay afloat. From understanding the grounds for divorce to mastering the art of negotiation, we’ll cover everything you need to know to emerge stronger on the other side.

So, what’s the short answer to surviving a , contested divorce in Texas? Knowledge is power, and our engaging guide empowers you with the tools you need to navigate this challenging journey. Let’s dive in! Keep reading for real-life examples, relatable themes, and an empathetic approach that will make this seemingly overwhelming process less intimidating.

In Texas, a contested divorce is when the spouses don’t agree on all the matters related to their divorce. This includes property division, child custody, child support, and more. In a contested divorce, each spouse will need an attorney to represent their interests during the divorce process.

Unless you and your spouse have resolved all issues in a divorce, your divorce will likely be considered “contested”. This doesn’t mean there will be a full-on assault to you, your sensibilities and your bank account, but that isn’t necessarily ruled out either.

The Houston divorce attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC represent people in all sorts of divorce cases in Texas, including contested divorces. What are the steps of a contested divorce, and how can I prepare for them? Read on to learn more about contested divorces in the State of Texas.

Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Every contested divorce in Texas begins with identifying the grounds or reasons for the divorce. Texas law recognizes both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault-based grounds include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, felony conviction, and living apart for at least three years. The no-fault ground, known as “insupportability,” is based on irreconcilable differences and an inability to continue living together as a married couple.

Establishing fault can impact property division and spousal support, so it’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to determine the most appropriate grounds for your divorce.

Grounds for Divorce



Insupportability (No-Fault)

Irreconcilable differences and an inability to continue living together as a married couple

No need to prove fault; less contentious

Adultery (Fault-Based)

One spouse has cheated on the other

May impact property division and spousal support

Cruelty (Fault-Based)

One spouse has treated the other with cruelty

May impact property division and spousal support

Abandonment (Fault-Based)

One spouse has left the other for at least one year without intent to return

May impact property division and spousal support

Felony Conviction (Fault-Based)

One spouse has been convicted of a felony and imprisoned for at least one year

May impact property division and spousal support

Living Apart (Fault-Based)

Spouses have lived apart for at least three years

May impact property division and spousal support

Navigating Property Division

Texas is a community property state, meaning all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered “community property” and subject to division upon divorce. This process can be complicated, especially when it comes to determining what separate property (owned before the marriage or acquired through inheritance or gifts) is and what community property is.

Having an experienced attorney on your side is essential to ensure a fair and equitable division of marital assets and debts.

Understanding Spousal Support and Alimony

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is critical to many contested divorces in Texas. The purpose of spousal support is to provide financial assistance to a lower-earning spouse to maintain their standard of living after the divorce.

In Texas, eligibility for spousal support depends on various factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial resources, and the needs of the requesting spouse. The Court will also consider factors such as the spouses’ earning capacities, education, and employment opportunities.

Creating Parenting Plans and Visitation Schedules

Child custody and visitation are often the most contentious issues in a contested divorce in Texas. Parents must create a parenting plan outlining details such as where the children will live, how much time they’ll spend with each parent, and how decisions about their education, health, and well-being will be made.

If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the Court will decide based on the child’s best interests. Factors considered may include the child’s preferences, the child’s emotional and physical needs, and each parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.

The Cost of Contested Divorce in Texas

The financial implications of a contested divorce in Texas can be significant. Costs can include attorney fees, court fees, and expenses related to expert witnesses and other professionals. Budgeting for these expenses and discussing cost-saving strategies with your attorney is essential.

Timeline of a Contested Divorce in Texas

The duration of a contested divorce in Texas can vary widely, depending on the complexity of the case and the level of conflict between the parties. On average, contested divorces can take anywhere from six months to several years to resolve.

The Role of Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses can play a crucial role in contested divorces in Texas, providing valuable insight and evidence to support a party’s case. Financial experts may assist with property valuations, business valuations, and determining income for child support and spousal support calculations. Mental health professionals and child custody evaluators can provide expert testimony on the children’s best interests.

Collaborative Divorce: An Alternative to Contested Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a less adversarial approach to resolving divorce-related issues, promoting cooperation between spouses and their attorneys. In a collaborative divorce , both parties and their attorneys commit to resolving their disputes through negotiation and compromise, rather than going to Court. This process can be more cost-effective, less time-consuming, and less emotionally draining than a contested divorce in Texas.

Collaborative divorce requires open communication and a willingness to work together. It may not be suitable for all cases, particularly those involving high levels of conflict or allegations of abuse. However, for couples willing to cooperate, collaborative divorce can be a more amicable and efficient way to end their marriage.

Post-Divorce Modifications

Life is full of changes, and circumstances can evolve after a divorce is finalized. In Texas, it’s possible to request modifications to child custody, child support, and spousal support orders if circumstances have changed significantly. For example, if a parent’s income changes substantially, a child or spousal support modification may be warranted.

It’s essential to consult with a skilled attorney to determine if a post-divorce modification is appropriate in your situation and navigate the legal process.

Appealing a Divorce Judgment

If you believe the Court made a mistake in its decision during your contested divorce in Texas, you can appeal the judgment. Appeals can be based on legal errors, such as misinterpretation of the law, or factual errors, such as incorrect findings by the Court. Keep in mind that appealing a divorce judgment can be a complex and time-consuming process, and it’s not guaranteed to result in a different outcome.

If you’re considering an appeal, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced appellate attorney to determine if this is the best course of action for your case.

Contested Divorce Steps

Filing an Original Petition for Divorce and specifying your reasons for asking for a divorce, the relief you’re requesting from the Court and specifying any temporary orders that you need from the Court is the first step.

The Court will receive the documents, submit them to the Court for a judge’s signatures (if you’ve requested a temporary restraining order) and prepare any additional papers to be served on your spouse. A citation tells the receiving party the details of what’s been filed and what is expected of them to file a response.

Another document that often accompanies the Original Petition is a precept. A precept is a type of legal notice the Court provides if a hearing is set and a judge orders you to appear at a certain time and place to attend.


A process server, constable or other law enforcement member can retrieve the documents from the Court in order to serve your spouse at whatever location you request. Once your spouse has the Petition, the law in Texas is that they have until the first Monday at 10:00 a.m. after the expiration of twenty days in which to file an Answer to your Petition. An answer typically includes a general denial of the allegations presented in the Petition.

If your spouse has any independent claims to assert against you they may do so in a document called a counterpetition. A contested divorce typically means your spouse will hire a Texas Divorce attorney. This can be a good thing, in that attorneys can remove a lot of the emotional aspects of the decision making that can be inherent in a divorce and can help clients to make more objective decisions about their lives and that of their children.

Temporary Orders

A temporary orders hearing is typically the first major event of a contested divorce. These hearings are thought of a mini-trials, in that evidence is presented, witnesses are called to testify and a judge issues decisions on issues ranging from child custody to child support.

Temporary orders are intended to help maintain the status quo for the family so that bills continue to be paid, children are able to see and spend time with both parents and other issues of immediate importance are dealt with by the Court. Preparation for this event is crucial. Attorneys and clients spend time honing questions and anticipating the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party.


Even in a contested divorce, elements of negotiation and compromise are apparent. In most divorces, the case will come to an end during a process called mediation. Mediation as a concept is pretty straightforward, the two sides pick an attorney (who is independent and has no relation to either side) who assists the parties in settling the case on all outstanding issues.

The sides will meet at the mediator’s office where they remain in separate rooms for a pre-determined length of time (typically three to four hours) and the mediator will walk back and forth between the sides to help facilitate conversation and hopefully agreement. Clients can be skeptical heading into mediation, but their typical reaction upon leaving is that they are happy to have entered into the process.

Mediators typically will help both sides see their strengths and weaknesses heading into a trial. The result is often that both sides see the benefit of not having a judge make a final say, but rather engaging with the other side on a settlement that suits all parties better than a court-mandated order.


The last stage of a contested divorce, if settlement has not occurred, is a trial. A trial is the culmination of weeks (maybe even years) of time spent on a Texas divorce case. Evidence is presented, arguments are made and the Court renders a judgment as to the issues that the parties could not settle on. If your case makes it to this point, it is among a statistical minority of those cases that do not settle at some earlier point.

This author believes it is typically best to settle your case outside of Court rather than leaving it up to a judge to decide. This is because a judge will only have an opportunity to get an idea about the case based on a relatively short trial where perhaps not even all of the evidence can or will be presented. It is typically tough to gauge how a judge will rule in cases where the facts don’t necessarily favor either party by a dramatic margin.

In a contested divorce, having experienced representation is crucial to your success. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can assist you with your divorce case. Please contact our office today to learn more about our services and how we stand ready to help you and your family.

Your Contested Divorce Survival Guide: Charting a Course Towards a Brighter Future

As we wrap up our journey through the wild world of contested divorce in Texas, let’s not forget the ultimate goal: emerging from this challenging process stronger, wiser, and ready to embrace a brighter future. With the proper knowledge, support, and a healthy dose of humor, you can turn this potentially tumultuous experience into an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

So, what’s the short answer to surviving a contested divorce in Texas? It’s all about arming yourself with the correct information, keeping an open mind, and maintaining a sense of humor even when the going gets tough. By working with an experienced attorney, exploring alternative resolution methods, and embracing the spirit of negotiation, you’ll survive your contested divorce and thrive beyond it.

And remember, while the stormy seas of contested divorce may seem overwhelming at times, there’s a clear and sunny horizon waiting for you on the other side. Keep your eye on the prize, trust the process, and know you’re not alone on this voyage. With the guidance and insights provided in this guide, you’re well on your way to a new and exciting chapter in your life. Bon voyage!

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How long does a contested divorce take in Texas?
The length of a contested divorce in Texas varies depending on the complexity of the case and the level of disagreement between the spouses. On average, a contested divorce can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years or more to be finalized.

What does contested divorce mean in Texas?
A contested divorce in Texas refers to a divorce in which the spouses cannot agree on all the terms related to their divorce, such as property division, child custody, and child support. In a contested divorce, each spouse typically hires an attorney to represent their interests, and the case may proceed to trial if a settlement cannot be reached.

What is the average cost of a contested divorce in Texas?
The average cost of a contested divorce in Texas can range from $15,000 to $30,000 or more, depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the attorneys’ fees, and whether the case goes to trial. Costs can be significantly lower for cases that are settled through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods.

Can a divorce decree be contested in Texas?
Yes, a divorce decree can be contested in Texas if a party believes that the court made a mistake in its decision. Appeals can be based on legal errors, such as misinterpretation of the law, or factual errors, such as incorrect findings by the court. However, appealing a divorce decree is a complex and time-consuming process, and there is no guarantee that the outcome will be different.

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